The use of mobile phones has disrupted and transformed many industries in the past few years. While retail, travel and the media industry have been the first to adopt the use of smartphones to improve customer engagement, the healthcare industry is quickly catching up. Given that more than half the Americans have access to smartphones even though they have no landline connections in their homes (according to a report by the US National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC -Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), health care professionals are making use of mobile phones to transform many aspects of clinical practice and to deliver healthcare more efficiently.
Penetration of mobile phones in healthcare set ups
The need to access information quickly is more urgent in healthcare set ups than in any other industry because the value of time here is associated with lives and not money. The ability of mobile phones to transmit important information anytime anywhere is leading to its increasing adoption in clinical settings – from hospitals to classrooms. According to a HIMSS report, 93% of physicians make use of mobile technology in their day to day activities and 80% use it to provide patient care. An estimated 66% of doctors own a tablet, and 54% use it in their practices. The Manhattan Research/Physician Channel Adoption Study reports that physicians spend 64% of their online time looking for information to make or support clinical decisions. This number is double the time previously spent browsing print resources. All these statistics indicate that mobility is an important piece in improving the quality of healthcare services.
Top mobility trends in the healthcare industry
1 – Restructured Administrative Processes
Although there are numerous hospitals today, the quality of care provided is not optimal and one prominent reason is lack of time. From check in to discharge, all processes are executed manually, causing a lot of productive time to be wasted and the brunt is borne by patients, especially at understaffed hospitals.
To alleviate the suffering of anxious patients, health care setups are investing in building mobile apps that manage time and information more efficiently. Patients view doctor information and fix appointments with doctors directly through their mobile devices, eliminating the cumbersome process of calling the hospital, waiting for a receptionist to answer and then figuring out the availability of a doctor. Doctors use these apps to track appointments, meetings, call schedules and other clinical obligations and make themselves available timely.
2 – Digital Health Records
Documenting pertinent health records of patients and their relevant medical data is one of the most significant activities in a hospital environment. These records are seldom expunged or obliterated; in fact additions are made to existing records time and again. Such a vast amount of information needs ample storage space and a dedicated team to file and sort it. Retrieval of this information is another huge challenge in clinical settings.
Using mobile apps to file and retrieve relevant health records streamlines this process. Doctors easily access patient information such as medical history, vitals, lab reports and discharge summary over a secure server. This process also enables physicians to access important information from a remote location as and when needed. Specialized apps are made to facilitate viewing of imaging scans as well. Advanced technology and retina displays of smartphones help doctors accurately diagnose something as major as a brain stroke over mobile apps.
3 – Mobile Communications and Consulting
The working of a healthcare setting is highly dispersed because it involves the separate functioning of various departments. Some of the important departments are – inpatient wards, OPD services, emergency departments, pharmacies, operation theaters and labs. However, the challenge is in getting these departments to collaborate together and deliver timely patient care. The problem gets magnified when a health care provider has multiple hospitals in a given network.
Specially developed clinical communication mobile apps break down communication barriers and help patients, doctors and other hospital staff to communicate and collaborate with people in different locations. In case of emergencies, it helps in saving critical time and reacting quickly to the needs of the patient.
4 – Collaborative Medical training and Education
Classroom education is undergoing a major transformation with the introduction of courses disseminated through mobile apps. Education in healthcare industry must also adapt to the new methods of learning because education is no longer limited to textbooks and medical manuals. Collaborative coursework is the new norm and facilitates better experiments and discoveries.
Educational mobile apps are used beyond making notes and performing calculations. With the use of mobile apps, medical students log results of their experiments and invite their peers to review them. Features like quizzes help them prepare for exams or corroborate their knowledge of various medical conditions to advance their career programs. These apps are integrated with various medical resources available online and help students and trainees to access relevant medical literature.
5 – Automated Inventory Management Systems
Pharmacies of all healthcare setups stock hundreds of different products and most of them come with an expiry date, which makes managing and scheduling of products an important activity. If the demand of certain supplies is not correctly estimated, it can cause delays in procurement, ultimately affecting the level of care received by patients.
Mobile solutions implemented in hospitals and pharmaceutical companies enable them to better manage their inventory and enable their sales people with real-time access to inventory data and orders. Full suite inventory management mobile apps help in meeting variation in product demand and bring precision to a number of important elements like order points, lead times and usage rates.
6 – Omni-channel Experience
In the digital era, companies are blending online and offline activities to provide what is being called an omni-channel experience. IDC Health Insights had predicted that U.S. health payers will adopt omni-channel strategies to engage customers in 2015 and Parkland Hospital in Dallas has fulfilled the prophecy by investing $80 million in digital technology to improve patient care, streamline recordkeeping, enhance security and enable the hospital to operate more efficiently.
It has been established that the healthcare industry has pressing issues that need to be addressed in order to improve the quality of health care. Mobile devices are proving to be extremely useful in such scenarios because they can “pick up numerous variables in a person’s environment and can serve as sensors, aggregators and displays” and provide actionable intelligence to make better clinical decisions. Mobile capabilities enhance the overall operational efficiency, streamline patient care delivery and lead the much needed transformational change.